NHS health checks 'are working'
6th March 2018 – It's estimated NHS Health Checks for over 40s save over 300 lives a year in England and result in more people living free of cardiovascular and other diseases each year.
Not only that, researchers at the University of Cambridge say the checks are adding life to years rather than just adding years to life.
The NHS Health Check programme was introduced in 2009 in England - and is like a midlife MOT for healthy people.
It means once every 5 years everyone between the ages of 40 and 74, who doesn't have pre-existing diabetes or cardiovascular disease, is invited, for a free check-up of their overall health.
At a Health Check, patients are asked about their lifestyle and family history, have their blood pressure taken and are measured and weighed. Usually they also have a small finger prick blood test to check their cholesterol levels and sometimes their blood sugar.
This is designed to see if they are at higher risk of getting certain health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and stroke - and if they are, to offer treatment or give advice on things like diet, weight loss, physical activity or stopping smoking. People over 65 are told about signs of dementia to look out for.
Scotland has a similar health check scheme called the Keep Well programme. It targets people between the ages of 40 and 64 living in areas of high deprivation, along with carers, individuals with addictions, and prisoners, and homeless people.
In Wales, over 50s are encouraged to complete an online health check looking at different aspects of their overall health and wellbeing. The information is then used to provide personally tailored guidance and information including, if necessary, advice to see a doctor.
This isn't the first time the effectiveness of the NHS Health Check in England has been analysed. A study from Imperial College London published in 2016 looking at people who went for a Health Check between 2009 and 2013 found the scheme only offered a marginal benefit for the cost and reduced the risk of heart disease over 10 years by just 0.21%.
However, another study, also published in 2016, carried out by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), looking at the first 5 years of the programme, found it was effective. It concluded Health Checks had prevented 2,500 heart attacks and strokes and had also helped to diagnose conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and chronic kidney disease.
In this latest study the researchers from the University of Cambridge used recent data from the Health Check programme along with data on the uptake and effectiveness of the treatments offered, to estimate the benefits when compared to a healthcare system without Health Checks.